LeBron James on Lakers trades: ‘We did a really good job’
LeBron James had missed the previous three games because of left ankle soreness, which led to an MRI exam on the ankle and his foot last Thursday that showed “no structural damage,” the Lakers forward said after playing 29 minutes and 13 seconds on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at Crypto.com Arena.
James had 21 points, six rebounds and six assists in limited minutes during the Lakers’ 120-102 win over the Pelicans.
He will play Sunday in the All-Star Game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. His next game with the Lakers will be here on Feb. 23 against the Golden State Warriors.
The key to the Lakers season, as they try to move from 13th place in the West into a postseason spot among the conference’s top 10, will be James’ health.
“No stress reaction. No stress fracture. No bone chips or breaks or anything like that,” James said about the MRI after the win. “It was just something that had to calm down from last Tuesday. So, I was able to obviously not stress it as much because I haven’t been able to play the last couple games, or the last three games, I believe it was, and got some really good work in in Portland.
“I was getting some good work in Portland and felt confident that I can go tonight after getting some great work this morning on the court. So felt pretty good about and feel, my ankle and my foot feels pretty good right now. So, it’s a good start.”
LeBron James could be days away from breaking the NBA’s all-time scoring record, but Kyrie Irving’s contract demands could be too steep for the Lakers.
James was asked about the activity the Lakers were involved in during last Thursday’s NBA deadline.
The Lakers acquired point guard D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota, and forward Jarred Vanderbilt and wing Malik Beasley from the Utah Jazz in a trade that sent Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones and a first-round draft pick to the Jazz.
The Lakers also acquired center Mo Bamba from Orlando for Patrick Beverley and guard Davon Reed from Denver for Thomas Bryant.
James said “I shout out and salute the guys” that were traded for “their commitment to us trying to be as good as we could be on the floor.”
“And right now, I mean, I like the guys that we have coming in,” James said. “I mean, it’s going to take some time for us to get to know one another but I know that they play the game at a high level. I know D-Lo is a really good, shifty point guard. He can space the floor. Very crafty. Very deceiving with his quickness, the way he plays the game.
“Obviously, we got a laser in Malik that we just never had this season. A guy, whenever he’s on the floor, no matter if he’s making it or not, you have to respect him because of his ability to shoot the ball. He has kind of that JR Smith feeling to him that he can miss 10 in a row and he can make 10 in a row right after that. Vando [Vanderbilt] is a Swiss army knife. He can do a little bit of everything. His defensive ability, his offensive rebounding ability you saw tonight. We had a turnover in the backcourt and he wasn’t even in the backcourt and he got a block at the rim and got out to contest a three after that and saved us the possession and AD [Anthony Davis] got the rebound and a foul.
“And then Mo, I think Mo is going to give us a lot of presence as well. You saw his shot blocking ability and his ability to shoot the three. No matter if he made them or not tonight, he’s a threat. I just love what we were able to pick up. And Davon as well, if his opportunity is called. His length, his ability to play multiple positions helps as well. So, I thought we did a really good job in the activity bracket on Thursday.”
Russell enjoys the moment
Russell received the pass from Troy Brown Jr., took a few dribbles and pulled up for a three-pointer on the fast break, his field goal giving the Lakers a 12-point lead in the third quarter.
Russell ran back down court, hopping along the way, the crowd cheering him as he waved his arms while the Pelicans were calling a timeout.
Russell last played for the Lakers in 2017, and this was his first time playing in front of the hometown crowd in his return following the trade last week; his first two games were on the road at Golden State and Portland.
He finished with 21 points and seven assists, enjoying the moment in the process.
“Just embracing all those emotions. Not being nervous. Not being anxious,” Russell said about his third-quarter reaction to the crowd after the three-pointer. “Not being any of that. Just kind of embracing it with my own persona and I love those moments. I play for the fans that are fans of me. I always appreciate them and when I have an opportunity to embrace it and go out of my way and do something like that, I always think of the fans when I’m doing that, for sure.”
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